Shipping & Logistics

Piracy still key threat to blue economy

East African soldiers during an anti-piracy
East African soldiers during an anti-piracy operation along the Indian Ocean. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

As Kenyan prepares to chair the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGCPS) from January next year, it faces the tough task of ensuring maritime security as the stature of the blue economy grows.

Securing sea transport in Kenya is particularly significant taking into account the fact that the Port of Mombasa is the gateway for the region’s imports.

“Maritime security provides a platform for sustainable sea resource exploitation to guarantee wealth and job creation. Ninety per cent of trade transacted in Africa passes through the Indian Ocean with Kenyan transacting about 92 per cent of its trade through the Indian Ocean,” said a 2017 report by the International Peace Support Training Centre Nairobi, titled An Assessment of Maritime Insecurity in the Kenya Maritime Domain’.

The study comprehensively spelt out the state of maritime insecurity along the coast line and the possible measures that need to be taken to address the menace.

According to the report , Kenya’s Indian Ocean domain occupies an area measuring 245,320 Km2 made up of an Exclusive Economic Zones(EEZ) of 142,000 Km2 and an extended continental shelf of 103,320 Km2. Geographically, Kenya has an expansive coastal ocean line of 536 Km in length.


The report says maritime insecurity has taken its toll on global trade.

“By 2010, maritime insecurity in eastern Africa had caused the global community equivalent of Sh1.8 trillion and the cost to Kenya alone was between Sh30 billion and 40 billion raising insurance cost with negative effects on regional economies,” added the report.

Maritime consultant, Andrew Mwangura told Shipping that the issue of piracy along the ocean needs a lot of commitment from sector players around the world.

He said piracy is fuelled by conflicts in several African countries, adding that organised criminals that operate along the Indian Ocean are a major source of maritime insecurity.

“Piracy is still a menace and it should be addressed accordingly. Measures must be put in place by world countries to have it addressed once for all,” he said.

Countries should come out with clear guidelines on how to address this menace.”

The Kenya Ships Agents Association Chief Executive Officer Juma Tellah said the EU Naval forces have been stationed along the Indian Ocean for the last ten years following the attacks and hijacks on ships by the pirates.

“There was a need to have all these forces at sea to address the issue of attacks that had become rampant,” he said in an interview.

According to the Kenya Shippers Council, by 2009 shippers were paying Sh2,500 per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEUs) and Sh5,00 for the 40-foot container to offset the increased cost.

In 2012, Mediterranean Shipping Company announced a new piracy surcharge on containers it transports between ports in South Africa and East Africa because piracy activities were “becoming more and more aggressive, consequently the insurance costs on the vessels to the region have become prohibitive”.

The firm increased its piracy risk surcharge by Sh10,000 per 20-foot equivalent unit to Sh23,000 per TEU on cargo carried to and from South Africa as well as to and from East Africa, including the ports of Dar Es Salaam, Tanga, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Nacala.

In May this year a three-day meeting organised by the Intergovernmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS) in Mombasa, deliberated on the global fight against maritime piracy with hope that it would get world recognition and thus addressed to the fullest. The forum adopted a report that noted that the menace of piracy had greatly affected the region, introducing new dimensions in maritime transport and coming with heavy costs.

“The fight against piracy including deterring measures have also brought about new ship operating costs which are ultimately passed to shippers, making imports costly and exports less competitive in international markets. This is the piracy surcharge,” said ISCOS acting secretary General Kassim Mpaata.

“Although incidents of piracy had greatly declined, there was continuous need for the region to remain vigilant.”

The report commended the EU Navel force which it said has been instrumental in curbing cases of maritime piracy in the region.

“The EU Naval Force has worked closely with the International Shipping Industry in order to combat the vice of piracy. The continuity of the EU Naval Force operations is not guaranteed as there have been indications of its intended withdrawal before. The region on its own does not seem to have contingency plans to secure its Maritime Waters,” said the report.

The report further recommended that ISCOS should continue collaborating with EU Naval Force in monitoring the trends of piracy and other maritime crimes in the region.

“ISCOS should inquire into the continued need by Shippers to pay piracy surcharge even when incidents of piracy have subsided. The regional governments should be made aware of the possible withdrawal of the EU Naval force and therefore the need for contingency plans to ensure security of the Maritime activity in the region,” said the report.

The report called for continued surveillance of the regional waters to curb other maritime menace such as drug and human trafficking.

“ISCOS should follow up with the EU Naval force on the classification of risk zones in the Indian Ocean, since this classification carries cost implications to the region. Countries in the region should continue collaborating and engaging each other to share intelligence information to fight piracy and other marine crimes,” said the report

Shipping and Maritime Affairs principal secretary Nancy Karigithu in a short statement, said piracy and insecurity still a big factor in the growth of sea business.

“We affirm our commitment on matters of maritime security, and in this regard we have now an opportunity to make our contribution to the advancement of the mandate and ideals of the CGPCS,” she said.

Dr Karigithu said Kenya is well aware of the effects of trade by insecurity and pledged to make the country safer for maritime commerce to grow and thrive.

“Most importantly, Kenya has adopted the blue economy as one of the pillars of economic growth and therefore maritime security as a pillar of growth is of utmost importance to us,” she said.